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Sentry Insurance Building (Hardware Mutual Insurance Company Building)

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1922–1937, Childs and Smith. 1421 Strongs Ave.

This office building, encompassing nearly a block, was constructed in three phases between 1922 and 1937 as an imposing expression of Beaux-Arts classical design. Built of Bedford limestone, the principal facade is dominated by a three-story colonnade of engaged Doric columns, which support a classical entablature. What is most striking is the building’s wealth of bas-relief carvings. Between the first and second stories, the spandrels display seals of the states in which the Hardware Mutual Insurance Company did business, and the metal spandrels between the second- and third-floor windows are embossed with a classical asterisk. Greek fretwork ornaments the stone cap along the top of the raised foundation, and griffins and the seals of the United States and Canada adorn the frieze above the colonnade. At the center of the facade, the ornate molding around the doorway features allegorical figures of Insurance, Labor, Commerce, Industry, Prudence, and Wisdom in niches, carved by Ulysses Ricci of New York.

Wrought-iron and glass doors open to a lavish interior. Marble of various colors, quarried in Europe and the United States, clads the floors, walls, and stairs. Two walnut-paneled elevators have domed ceilings of polished brass. Painted canvases on the elevator lobby’s ceiling and over the stairs by Ethel Parsons Paullin of New York represent the four seasons, the signs of the zodiac, and Greek deities. The wrought-iron chandelier is by Samuel Yellin of Philadelphia, who also designed the lanterns, railings, and doors. Yellin was well known for his work on such important buildings as the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City. Offices in the older (north) half of the building include stained glass designed in the Tudor Revival style by G. Owen Bonawit of New York City, which surrounds the office suite’s entrance. A map of North America on the canvas ceiling in the waiting room was painted in a fifteenth-century style by Andrew Schwartz of New York City. On the south side of the building, the auditorium is Art Deco. Here the finishes are extraordinary: the linoleum floor features a geometric pattern, walls are veneered with aspen pine and inlaid with mahogany and cork, the trim is aluminum, and aluminum and mahogany veneer the proscenium arch.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Marsha Weisiger et al.
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Citation

Marsha Weisiger et al., "Sentry Insurance Building (Hardware Mutual Insurance Company Building)", [Stevens Point, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/WI-01-PT4.

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 387-387.

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